Circular economy: The good and the bad


In the eye watering world of government grants $2.3m is small change, but a new recycling campaign in the Territory based on 50:50 co-contributions with the NT and Federal governments appears to be value-for-money.

The exemption seems to be the Alice Springs Town Council which will get $63,800 of taxpayers’ cash for a $127,600 granulator (similar to the one pictured).

This is a machine that chops plastics into very small pieces but – as the announcement by the spenders of public funds has revealed in a media release – will process less than one tonne of waste plastic per year.

The project will “support 1 ongoing position” which must be the most underemployed human being in creation.

We checked with the Federal Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water which told us: “This project was assessed and approved for funding in a competitive grants process run by the Territory Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade.”

We’ve asked that department and the town council for explanations.

Is this a repetition of the council’s $800,000 glass crusher project which was able to process the town’s annual requirement for such a device in just four days?

The good news is the astonishing amount of rubbish which our “circular economy” in regional and remote communities will keep out of the litter stream.

This is from a media release by Member for Lingiari Marion Scrymgour:

• Katherine Tree Maintenance (Northern Waste Reduction Services) gets $1,400,930 to develop a new $6.3m tyre recycling plant in Katherine with the capacity to recycle and repurpose 75% of Northern Territory’s end-of-life tyres.

The project will process 5,000 tonnes of waste tyres each year into products suitable for road surfacing, footpaths and playground soft fall. The project will support three construction jobs and seven ongoing positions.

• The Central Desert Regional Council gets $102,262 to construct recycling bays in four remote communities: Yuelamu, Nyirripi, Willowra and Atitjere at a project cost of $204,500.

The bays will enhance the sorting of waste streams including tyres, cardboards, plastic and glass. The project will create three construction jobs, four ongoing positions and divert 200 tonnes of tyres and 3.6 tonnes of waste plastic from landfill per year.

• Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia receives $238,628 for a new $560,000 recycling centre in Yulara. It will significantly increase the volumes of materials recovered from current recycling streams such as plastic bottles, aluminium cans, glass and cardboard. The project will create two ongoing positions and divert 300 tonnes of waste from landfill per year.


UPDATE December 14:

A spokesperson from the Northern Territory Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade provided the following statement:

The Northern Territory Recycling Modernisation Fund supports projects that create opportunities to grow the Territory economy by turning waste into a valuable commodity.

Alice Springs Town Council will use the funding to invest in a granulator to process plastics into smaller pieces to enable it to be recycled more efficiently. This will help divert waste from landfill and create new economic opportunities for the local community.

Details about make and model of the granulator is commercial in confidence.


A spokesperson from the Town Council provided the following statement:

Currently, we have no further information to provide in regards to the following plastic granulator queries:

  • What is the cost-benefit of the grant, given the machine will process less that a tonne a year? 
  • And the person filling the “1 ongoing position” is unlikely to be very busy. 

I will be in touch with any updates as they arise.

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